By JESSE BURKHARDT
The Bingen-White Salmon Police Department can expect even more of a focus on fitness if the newest officer to join the force has anything to say about it.
Before coming to White Salmon, Audra Fuller, the department's new recruit, was a fitness coach. Her business, based in Enumclaw, was called Health Link. Now, she wants to use her skills in that area to benefit those around her.
"I was a fitness coach for 25 years," said Fuller. "I'm really interested in being a field training offer. I love training and teaching, and have been looking for opportunities with instruction and coaching."
With Fuller on board, that big soft-drink machine in the lobby of the Park Center building where the Bingen-White Salmon Police Department is headquartered may be an endangered species.
"Nutrition was my specialty. I've got to do something about that Coke machine," she joked.
And Fuller apparently doesn't take a break from fitness. She said her recreation consists of "anything fitness related."
"Hiking, biking, working out," she explained. "I don't like to be in a gym; I like to be outside."
Fuller said she was attracted to White Salmon because she had been searching for a position in a smaller police department.
"I'm very happy to be here," Fuller explained. "White Salmon was on top of my list because it's small and community-oriented. I like it. I get to know people and they get to know me."
Fuller said she has long considered a career in law enforcement.
"It kind of came to me as an eye-opener," she said. "Law enforcement is a good fit for me. It's who I am. It's just a matter of learning the technical aspects."
Fuller added that she was aware of the history of officers in White Salmon or Bingen moving to greener pastures after getting some experience with the local police force.
"I know it's always an issue; an officer will stay two or three years and move on," Fuller said. "If I went to Seattle, that's what I would have done. But this is where I want to be. This is a real comfort zone for me."
Bingen-White Salmon Police Chief Bruce Brending praised Fuller as an ideal candidate.
"Fuller went through the Civil Service testing and finished in the top three," Brending explained. "I interviewed all three, and picked Audra. She is the best fit for what the department needed at this time."
It has been nearly a decade since the Bingen-White Salmon Police Department has had a woman officer, and Brending believes it's overdue.
"Hiring a female officer is representative of the community," Brending said. "It makes it another way of reaching out, and reaching the community. Some people are more comfortable talking to a woman. Obviously, when searching female prisoners, it's much better to have a female officer. It brings one more element to the department we were lacking."
Even with the new hire, the Police Department is still short-staffed. The department now has four police officers, a sergeant, and a police chief. To be at full strength, two more officers still need to be hired, but budget constraints are limiting opportunities to hire any more officers, at least for this year.
Fuller said she will soon be moving here with her 19-year-old son Tyler, an artist. But first, she needs to graduate from the Police Academy in Burien.
She is scheduled to graduate in the first week of October. Once she returns from the academy, she will then spend 10 weeks riding with another officer for training.
Fuller is eager to get started.
"I wish it was a shorter police academy," she said.